Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) delivered the keynote speech at the Society of American Foresters National Convention in Spokane today. The Congresswoman spoke about her work to improve federal land management policies and issues specific to the Colville National Forest.
"Our federal forests are sick and the communities that depend on them have struggled for decades due to inaction," said Rep. McMorris Rodgers. "When I look at our national forests - 200 million acres across the country - and learn that one out of three acres is bug infested, diseased, or dead, I find that unacceptable. In addition, it is no coincidence that many of the counties with the highest unemployment rates in the country are those which are surrounded by federal forests. By removing lands from private ownership - and thus, from the local municipal tax rolls -- the government stifles locally-driven development and makes rural communities more dependent on Washington, DC. With job creation, economic growth, and federalism now more important than ever, it is imperative that Congress and the federal agencies undertake a comprehensive review of their land ownership policies."
Rep. McMorris Rodgers cited the Colville National Forest (CNF) as a model to set our forests and our rural communities on a better course. The Congresswoman acknowledged the excellent work by the Northwest Washington Forestry Coalition (NWFC), a coalition of local stakeholders that has brought warring sides together to identify and implement forest management solutions. Rep. McMorris Rodgers has advocated on behalf of the NWFC for years. In February 2012, the U.S. Forest Service recognized the CNF by providing $968,000 in funding for the CNF's restoration efforts.
The Congresswoman also championed several pieces of legislation to improve federal land management policies, including
H.R. 4019, the Federal Forest County Revenue, Schools and Jobs Act,which would reform the Secure Rural Schools program.
HR 2541, the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act,which would protect forest jobs by reversing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' misguided ruling that forest stormwater runoff produced during logging must be regulated by the Clean Water Act, overturning 35 years of federal environmental policy.
H.R. 758, The National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act, which would require the President to receive approval from Congress before designating a national monument.
H.R. 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act,which would release public lands that have already been identified by the Bureau of Land Management as not suitable for wilderness from further study for wilderness designation.
"Even when America's economy was booming, many federal policies on the use of our resources were counterproductive. But today, with so much economic suffering, they're devastating. We do not need more Big Government, one-size-fits-all, "my way or the highway' policies. The time has come to put our peopleback to work, which means putting our landback to work."